Millennial Dads Demand Flexible Hours, Robust Benefits to Help Raise Kids

As Generation Y fathers shoulder more parenting responsibility, their workplace expectations rise
  
 

By Dana Wilkie Jul 10, 2015
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On the one hand, they’re workplace progressives—demanding more scheduling flexibility than perhaps any generation before.

On the other, you might say they are traditionalists—wanting conventional benefits like robust disability and life insurance packages that offer financial stability.

“They” are Millennial employees who’ve become parents. And among these 18- to-33-year-old workers, fathers increasingly expect their employers to help them play a key role in their children’s rearing, according to The Hartford’s 2015 Millennial Parenthood Survey.

“Millennial men are approaching parenthood differently than previous generations, which means employers should factor in fathers when they build benefit plans and work/life policies,” said The Hartford’s Millennial workplace expert Lindsey Pollak. “Meeting the needs of this next generation of parents will be critical for businesses as we count down to 2020—the year when Millennials are expected to be 50 percent of the U.S. workforce.”

The Hartford offers property and casualty insurance, group benefits, and mutual funds. Pollak has partnered with The Hartford on a national awareness campaign to help Millennials understand their benefits and employers understand their Generation Y employees. The survey was conducted among 1,000 men and women ages 18-33 who were self-employed or employed full or part time in April 2015. The participants included both parents and those who weren’t parents but said they would consider having children.

More than half of the Millennial men said they had taken extended time off from work to help care for a baby, according to the survey. Nearly 1 in 3 Millennial dads said both parents took more than two weeks off after a baby was born, while about 1 in 5 said they were the only parent who took time off. In addition, an analysis of The Hartford’s claims data showed that caring for a newborn was the No. 1 reason for Millennial men to be on a nondisability leave of absence.

“While this generation of 80 million is known for putting off parenthood, increasingly more Millennials are entering this new life stage,” the survey authors wrote. “Currently, about 10.8 million Gen Y households have children.”

Pollak said the researchers didn’t have comparative data—that is, numbers for the percentage of Generation X or Baby Boomer men who took paternity leave—but “my experience has shown that, for most Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, paternity leave wasn't an option until very recently,” she said.

“And, in many cases, men often felt that even if their employer offered some form of paternity leave, there was a stigma against it,” she added. “Millennial men appear to be more interested in paternity leave and in family situations in which they are equal partners in the parenting of their children.”

While the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with worksites of 50 or more employees within 75 miles of that site to give men and women up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for caregiving purposes, as more Millennials enter the workforce and take on leadership roles, “we may see more instances of companies offering paid leave of absence after a baby,” Pollak said.

“We think it’s important for employers to understand their employees’ expectations about benefits, such as paid leave of absence, because benefits are often a hiring and retention tool. Also, understanding fathers’ expectations about time off after a baby can be important for scheduling and hiring of employees.”

After taking time off following a child’s birth, 37 percent of the men said they were the primary child care providers, while almost half said the responsibility was shared equally by them and the mother.

Parenthood impacted the careers of both women (75 percent) and men (53 percent), according to the survey. Millennial dads said the top career impacts were a reduction in their working hours (16 percent), moving to a job with a higher salary (15 percent) and a slowdown of their career (12 percent). Millennial moms said the top impacts were changing to a job with more flexibility (25 percent), reducing their hours (22 percent) and experiencing a slowdown in their career (18 percent).

A stunted career progression, along with inflexible work hours and feeling pressured to look for a higher-paying job, shouldn’t have to accompany parenthood, Pollak said.

“Millennials are pushing companies to rethink traditional ‘up or out’ career ladders and be more realistic about people’s interest in having a personal life outside of work [while] succeeding in their careers,” Pollak said. “Progressive organizations are responding by offering options such as flexible hours, work from home options, sabbaticals, and onsite and/or backup child care. Companies that want to keep the best talent will need to consider such options.”

Millennials in the national survey said employers should offer these benefits to help employees be responsible parents:

  • Flexibility in time-off options—cited by 97 percent of respondents; 50 percent said this was a “must.”
  • Flexibility in work hours—cited by 97 percent; 44 percent said this was a “must.”
  • Disability insurance—cited by 96 percent; 44 percent said this was a “must.”
  • Life insurance—cited by 92 percent; 40 percent said this was a “must.”

Interestingly, Millennial men were more likely than women to feel that employers “must” offer disability, life and critical-illness insurance in their benefits package.

Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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